In the next 10-12 years, there will be a rapid change in landscape among businesses within the African continent, where the opportunities for African companies to benefit from branding efforts will be larger than ever before. From the activities of some African companies within the last couple of years, it is evident that a greater number of companies will pay more attention to brand building, being a necessity and not an option. Brand leadership will become one of the most prominent management issues in business boardrooms across the African continent.
But before this new momentum shift can take place in a way that will have much impact, changes are necessary. African companies and their management teams need to undertake five important steps to unleash and reach their untapped potential, and build a brand that is beyond beautiful logo and catchy names.
Change in Mindset: Companies that want to be part of this emerging change within the business landscape would have to have a complete shift in the way they think of branding. Just a shallow review of what many companies currently have in place in terms of branding will reveal a predominantly poor image across platforms. A good number of companies until now still:
Have a tactical view of their branding activities, where they want a quick fix and “sharp sharp” solution that will yield result immediately.
Have fragmented marketing activities where they pay attention to multi-channel marketing in cost of omni-channel marketing.
See branding as the sole responsibility of the marketing team. The CEO, Account Officer, among others still hold an “I don’t care” mentality. As a panacea, a complete shift in the way African boardrooms think of branding is needed:
- From a tactical view to a long-term, strategic perspective
- From fragmented marketing activities to totally aligned branding activities
- From a vision of branding as the sole responsibility of marketing managers to branding as the most essential function of the firm led by the CEO and boardroom
A more acute perspective on consumer behavior patterns: Nation states within the African continents are widely known for their heterogeneous nature. But they have this traversing cultural flows permeating the region, as seen in Mobile networks, cinema, music and fashion trends that extend beyond national borders to capture the imagination of millions. Branding and brands do not operate in vacuum, but are closely linked to developments in society, to people and to cultures.
So they must create brands that are relevant to the culture and the people. Happy enough, few brands have already picked this up.
Eneza Education a is great example of how African firms can create and sustain brands based on their own cultures. Noticing that the average school in Kenya has 60 students for each teacher and four students to one textbook, but that 95% of Kenyans have mobile phones, Kago Kagichiri, with his passion for advancing education in Africa, revolutionised the EdTech industry. This initiative did not just succeed in solving a problem but it used what is the predominant culture of Kenyans to create solutions. A good number of them had access to mobile phones, so why not put education inside their phones?
Nigeria’s leading independent TV, radio and on-line broadcasting company, TVC Communications is another good example. The Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Hanlon while unveiling the new brand identity said, “Our new brand is reflective of our core audience of 15 to 39 year old’s. who are young and modern, ambitious, bright, international in their outlook, yet very much Nigerian and fiercely proud of it.”
Building a brand with an acute perspective of the consumer can also be achieved through the choice of a brand name.
Abandon the idea of the past: African consumers have one thing in common: colonialism. Even years after the independence of so many nation states, the burden of neo-colonialism has not been lifted off their shoulder. If African brands can therefore, can be offered businesses with African type of modernity that has nothing to do with colonial imagery, they would love them and be very loyal. and managers need to adapt to this new perspective. The trick is to balance legacy and vintage with modernity and contemporary edge.
In 2007, Safaricom launched M-Pesa, Africa’s first SMS-based money transfer service. About 82% of Kenyan adults are said to own mobile phones during that time. This has made it possible for a large percentage of the citizens to use the service to pay for everything from groceries to taxi fares, bringing banking closer to people who are miles away from physical bank branches. The Kenyan brand is recognised for including a Swahili word in its naming. In the word, M-Pesa, M is for mobile and pesa, is the Swahili word for money.
To create iconic brands, Asian managers will have to become trendsetters: The perspective is that, in order to be successful, Asian brands need to capture the spirit of the region, but they also need to lead the way by creating that spirit. It is therefore important that Asian firms spend more on innovation, design and technology to become trendsetters. How many African businesses are paying attention to anything that will help them build their brand? This is a mobile responsive world. How many companies have a functioning website or even pay attention to their brand identity in the first place? Even those that of those that have look like what were used and discarded by Lord Lugard. Those who are sleeping would have to wake up, if they want to join the wagon that is taking off soon.
All strategies and actions must be aligned around the brand: This shift can be achieved only if everybody in the company is convinced by the power of branding, and this new paradigm for leadership must be led by the African boardroom, its CEO and senior executives.